Update from Neighbors for the Preservation of the Neighborhood group

Thank you for your support of Neighbors for the Preservation of the Neighborhood. During 2010, we all fought hard to prevent our neighborhood from being rezoned and potentially ruined by aggressive expansion plans proposed by Highland Park Presbyterian Church. We met with some success since HPPC withdrew their proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission last fall.

We are writing to let you know that we have removed the yard signs, which were instrumental in our campaign, from the yards around the neighborhood. We appreciate all of you who demonstrated your support for our wonderful residential University Park neighborhood by displaying these signs over the past months.

From what we have been told by senior church leaders, HPPC is currently re-grouping and has indicated they are exploring a variety of new options. Unfortunately,


At this point, we believe it is prudent to pull back our messaging until we know the nature of their next attempt. Once we know more about their intentions, you may be asked to rally once again to show your support for the neighborhood. As always, we remain firmly committed to retaining the unique residential character of our University Park neighborhood and will vigorously oppose any attempts to rezone or further encroach into our neighborhood. We have restated this position to HPPC as well as our willingness to work with them on whatever issues they wish to address.

We will keep you posted of news and developments, as they become known. Thanks again for your support.

Neighbors for the Preservation of the Neighborhood


PD Application withdrawn but new plan is in the works


When we received word that HPPC had withdrawn its Planned Development (PD) application, we were hopeful that the issue would be put to rest, and the neighbors and other community supporters could take down their yard signs and work with HPPC to restore the cooperative and harmonious relationship we once enjoyed. That is the neighbors’ most sincere hope and prayer.

However, we have been told that HPPC has a new parking plan in the works.

This new plan -as posted on the HPPC website – shows parking spaces on either side of the alley, partially paving the backyards of all the homes. We believe that the use of those parking spaces for churchgoers is in violation of City Code, as parking spaces behind Single Family homes are an accessory to that home and are not allowed for third party use, as would be the case in this plan. We further hold that such a plan would set an undesirable, if not dangerous precedent in University Park. For example, one could conclude that if HPPC is allowed to pour parking spaces behind residential homes and allow anyone other than the residents to park there, then other homeowners (especially those near schools, shopping centers and SMU) could similarly construct parking spaces and make them available for others to use. Again, a dangerous precedent for University Park.

Another objection it that a plan of this nature alters the established block of Single Family homes in a manner inconsistent with the surrounding residential neighborhood. We have asserted since the beginning that a parking lot – of any shape or configuration – has no place in the heart of a residential neighborhood.

In addition, we have been told that HPPC leaders are asking for permission to continue to use Single Family homes for purposes not allowed under City Code (i.e. church offices, counseling center and offices for a separate 501c3 organization).

1) We support HPPC in any efforts to build a code compliant underground parking on its PD-36 (current campus bordered by University/McFarlin/ Shannon/Park). An underground garage provides a long-term solution to HPPC parking and resolves concerns about convenience and safety for families with small children and the elderly who would not have to cross through a surface parking lot or cross Shannon (a public street) to reach the church. An underground garage also eliminates concerns over light and noise pollution and eliminates the ongoing cost of landscape maintenance.
2) We will continue to work for more neighbor-friendly alternatives to a parking lot including shuttling, valet parking for seniors, use of UP Employee parking lot for church employees on Sundays, and we will work with HPPC to ask city officials to allow Sunday-only parking in areas around HPPC that are currently designated as No Parking. Our research has shown that there is a potential of over 900 parking spaces available within a 5 minute walk of HPPC if all spaces are able to be utilized.
3) We support a 100% compliance with City Code by HPPC on all the property it owns.
4) We do not support the re-zoning (or any commercial use) of any or all of the block of Single Family homes either in the 3900 block of University and McFarlin or the 3800 block of McFarlin.
5) We do not support parking of any configuration that is not compliant with Single Family zoning and residential use.

Until we receive word that HPPC has totally abandoned efforts to use the 3900 Single Family Block for any purpose other than residential, we will remain united and steadfast in our objections. We are motivated by a desire to protect our home values, our neighborhood and our quality of life and we appreciate the hundreds of UP residents who stand with us.

If you have questions or would like to sign our petition, please email nohppcparkinglot@gmail.com.


UPDATE: Neighbors meet with HPPC to discuss alternatives to surface parking lot

In response to a request by City of UP Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Bob West, Highland Park Presbyterian Church officials tonight held a meeting with neighbors to discuss alternatives to their strongly-contested surface parking lot proposal.

(For those new to this issue, HPPC has filed a request to rezone the south side of the 3900 block of University Blvd and the north side of the 3900 block of McFarlin Blvd from single family residential to a Planned Development. The church seeks to demolish 3 homes on the block to construct a surface parking lot, and use three of the remaining homes for the church’s communications department, offices for two separate 501c3 organizations, and storage. The request has met with strong neighborhood and community opposition expressed through yard signs, letters to city officials and church leaders, and a petition containing over 550 signatures.)

Tonight’s discussion began with the presentation of a ‘same song, second verse’ variation of the parking lot plan already submitted by the church. The neighbors quickly made it clear that they would not support anything other than single family residential zoning for that block. They asserted that the 3900 block lies in the heart of a stable, long-established residential neighborhood and any other use would be incompatible with the neighborhood character and damaging to surrounding property values.

Church representatives discussed pursuing one of the alternatives originally suggested by neighbors 18 months ago: working with the City of UP to allow parking (on Sunday mornings only) along curbs that are currently marked ‘No Parking.’ The neighbors strongly support this idea and offered to go with HPPC representatives to meet with City officials regarding this request.

The discussion then turned to the underground parking alternative that Chairman West asked the church to investigate after its initial August 10 presentation. HPPC has done some preliminary investigation into an underground parking lot and showed neighbors some early sketches of the plan. The neighbors asked the church’s architect to further investigate the idea of constructing an underground lot on HPPC’s existing church campus on the 3800 block of University (known as PD-36 in City of UP records) between Shannon Lane and Park St. While the neighbors are not convinced that HPPC “needs” a parking lot at all (because so many other options exist, ex: valet parking, shuttle service, increasing City-designated spaces) they are willing to compromise with the idea of an underground lot (rather than a surface lot) for the following reasons:

o Creates abundance of additional, actual “on-site” parking within “footprint” of existing HPPC PD-36
o No demolition of homes required
o No re-zoning required
o Safety concerns are greatly diminished—no crossing of a busy street
o Serves needs of all demographics of church membership–Members would access church buildings at points of need; i.e. families with children enter directly into east end of building for nurseries and children’s classrooms; “challenged seniors” enter into Hunt Building at west end for adult Sunday School classes
o Completely invisible to neighbors and community
o Takes financial burden from the neighbors and places it entirely upon HPPC
o Leaves backyards and garages of Single Family homes intact
o No landscape maintenance required–removes concerns about neglect
o Long-term, permanent solution to increasing available parking which HPPC can control
o Eliminates noise, night lights, views of cars and concrete, potential for crime and other negative effects of a parking lot that would intrude into neighborhood
o Expense for underground parking garage vs. surface parking lot could be offset by sale of HPPC-owned homes in the block of Single Family homes
o Environmentally better: no heat transmission from surface, no water run-off issues
o Planning & Zoning Commission directed HPPC to investigate underground parking
o Neighbors have told church they would support underground parking
o Satisfies UP Code (25-106): “Off-street parking as an accessory use to a place of worship located in a residential district shall be permitted when such parking is located on the same lot, tract or site occupied by a worship-related structure on which building permits were issued”.

Neighbors’ Conclusion: This plan meets all the needs, all the time, for all time.

After tonight’s meeting, the neighbors are encouraged to have engaged HPPC in a detailed discussion of an alternative that would shift the financial burden from the neighbors to the church. If HPPC insists it must have a parking lot of some kind, a parking garage underneath the church’s current footprint is the best compromise.

HPPC officials promised to investigate this idea further and get back with neighbors with an update in advance of the October 12 P&Z meeting.


Bulletin: Planning & Zoning Meeting still on for tonight!

You may have heard that after 5 pm last night, HPPC submitted a request for a delay in the Planning & Zoning Commission’s cnsideration of their parking lot proposal.

After making a few inquiries, we have been told that the postponement request will be discussed at the meeting tonight. There are several options:

1. The P&Z Commission could make a motion to approve the request for a delay until the October meeting; or
2. The P&Z Commission could make a motion to proceed with a vote on HPPC’s rezoning request based upon the information already presented

The Neighbors for the Preservation of the Neighborhood (NPN) Steering Committee is organized and prepared for this meeting and we are disappointed in this 11th hour request for a delay. However, we are confident that we have done everything possible to communicate our key points, including:
*the overwhelming community opposition to this proposed rezoning
*the lack of any legal imperative under RLUIPA or TRFRA to compel the City of UP to grant HPPC’s rezoning request
*the absence of demonstrated need for a surface parking lot on a separate city block
*HPPC’s failure to fully explore and test numerous neighbor-friendly parking alternatives
*the clear lack of precedent for the City of UP’s Planning and Zoning Commission to grant HPPC’s rezoning request

So, please make every effort to attend the meeting at 6 pm tonight at UP City Hall.

Thanks for your support. See you there.


2nd planning and Zoning Commission Meeting TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 at 6:00 pm

The City of UP Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the HPPC parking lot proposal at its meeting on Tuesday, September 14 at 6:00 pm at the City of UP town hall.

Please make an effort to be there.

Help us stop this unprecedented, unneeded and unwanted intrusion into our stable and established University Park neighborhood. If this parking lot is approved, the negative ripple effect in terms of property value will extend for blocks and blocks. The character and aesthetic of our City’s signature street -University Boulevard- and McFarlin Boulevard, are at risk. As UP taxpayers and residents, we must stand up against unwanted commercial growth in the heart of our residential neighborhood.

University Park’s land size is finite. Most of us purchased homes here because we value lovely homes, friendly neighbors, beautiful trees and parks, and excellent city services and schools. These are the qualities that make University Park one of the most valuable and distinctive neighborhoods in the United States. Even UP homeowners who do not live near HPPC have a stake in the outcome of this case.

Help support your neighbors and help preserve our UP neighborhood.

Join us at the P&Z hearing on Tuesday night!

Vist our blogsite: http://www.nohppcparkinglot.wordpress.com or email us at nohppcparkinglot@gmail.com for more information or to join our cause.



Another letter from an HPPC Member

Reprinted with permission from an HPPC member:

“I am writing today to side with your cause in convincing my church from constructing a parking lot that is not needed by our church, nor wanted by the surrounding community.

Our current church membership is much smaller today than in its heyday of the early 90’s, prior to the church split in membership (to Park Cities Presbyterian Church), when membership was at least a third more than it is now. The church was a lot busier then, and seemed to do fine with the current parking arrangements. Of course, the city allowed more parking on University Blvd then, but the street fire code was not as strict as it is now. It is my opinion, the neighbors in the local community surrounding the church have always been generous to allow parking in front of their homes on Sunday mornings when the need is the greatest. At other times of the week, parking is not a problem. To have a parking lot seven days a week is not necessary to the well being of the congregation. The change to this beautiful community will diminish the appeal of University Blvd. as a landmark of community setting. To see the impact of such a plan, you only need look at the north side of University Park United Methodist Church (4024 Caruth), and witness the whole sale destruction of homes for a parking lot on Colgate Avenue, adjacent to that church. Not only did the city lose property tax revenues, the community lost part of its presence. I think it would be a mistake to do the same to University Blvd. I’ve been a member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church since 1982 and generally approve of their decisions to improve the quality of our church. The decision for a new parking lot was made with little input, and limited feedback from the membership as a whole. It would not serve our purpose as a friendly and welcoming neighbor to our community. The neighborhood has been good to us, and we need to respond in kind with another solution to the “perceived” parking challenges.”


Area blogsites discuss HPPC’s unwanted parking lot

Check out the Park Cities People blog for an interesting dialogue on HPPC’s proposed rezoning application for a parking lot and other uses:


Other blogsites covering the issue include:
(see example: http://parkcitiesblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/08/parsing-the-church-debate.html)
(see example: http://parkcities.bubblelife.com/community/bubblelife_discussion/type/search/search/hppc)

And if you haven’t already done so, please email us to add your name to our petition: nohppcparkinglot@gmail.com. We will contact you and arrange to get your signature. Thanks.


Neighbors show strong turnout for first P&Z hearing

A crowd of neighbors and other UP residents turned out tonight for the first Planning & Zoning Commission hearing to consider HPPC’s request to rezone the 3900 blocks of McFarlin and University. After two hours of presentations by people speaking for and against the proposal, the P&Z decided to table the discussion and resume at the meeting on Tuesday, September 14.

Here are a few of our takeaways from tonight’s meeting:

1. For HPPC, the parking lot is much more of a ‘want’ than a ‘need’. They say they ‘want’ on site parking for their members because it is more convenient for them. Yet from our research we know that there are over 900 parking spaces within a 5 minute walk of the church! Wouldn’t church members be willing to park and walk 5 minutes if it meant keeping harmony with its neighbors and preserving an entire residential block in the heart of the community?

2. They say a parking lot would get the cars off the street. Yet their own parking study demonstrates that, at peak demand, the net result on parking in the neighborhood would be to move about 100 cars 1/2 block closer to the church. No church parking lot is adequate in completely removing cars from the street — examples: Park Cities Baptist Church built a 500 car underground garage and still has members who park at Preston Center and ride a shuttle bus to church. Preston Road Church of Christ expanded its surface parking lot and still has cars parked all around the nearby streets.

3. They say a parking lot would provide ‘safe access’ to the church for the elderly and families with small children. Yet to get to the church they would have to cross Shannon Lane, a public city street, and navigate around cars trying to enter or exit the lot. Since they are already using the 116 public spaces around the church as their own, wouldn’t it be better – and safer- to designate those spaces for the elderly and families with young children?

4. The church has not fully investigated all available options, including valet parking for seniors and shuttle buses to nearby lots. Park Cities Baptist Church and Highland Park United Methodist Church have successfully used shuttle buses for years, and First Presbyterian Church in Houston has successfully used a valet parking program for its seniors. The Planning & Zoning Commission has also asked HPPC to investigate the cost of building an underground lot.

5. This proposed zoning is not just about a parking lot – it’s about taking over a residential block and using it for 5 different purposes: 1) parking lot, 2) residential homes, 3) storage building, 4) church communications office, and 5) counseling center for a separate 501c3 nonprofit organization. City of UP staff have confirmed that it is unprecedented for any residential city block to be used for this many different purposes.

Thanks to all the neighbors and concerned UP citizens who attended tonight’s hearing. Please plan to join us on September 14 for the second hearing. And be sure to write to the City of UP P&Z to share your opinions. Make your voices heard:


Mark your calendars for the next P&Z meeting, Tuesday, September 14 at 5 pm. If you would like to sign our petition, please email us at nohppcparkinglot@gmail.com.


Today Is The Day _ First Day @ P&Z – Be There

Subject: REMINDER: CIty of UP Planning & Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday, August 10 – 5 pm


The first P&Z hearing regarding HPPC’s rezoning proposal will be held on Tuesday, August 10 at 5 pm!

Here’s what you can do to help!


Please attend Tuesday’s meeting to help show the overwhelming opposition of the neighbors and the UP community- arrive early to get a seat!! The Steering Committee has prepared a presentation and will be happyt to discuss it with you.
– Show quoted text –
WRITE Please write a letter asking P&Z members to deny HPPC’s request to rezone the 3900 blocks of University and McFarlin to Planned Development. A sample letter is attached if you wish to use it. Send to: City of UP Planning and Zoning Commission Membersc/o Liz SpectorCity of University Park3800 University Blvd.University Park, Texas 75205 City Secretary Liz Spector will make copies for each member. P&Z members pay attention to the number of letters they receive, so please write!! CALL If you know any of our Planning and Zoning Commission members – or even if you don’t – feel free to call them to state your opposition to this issue.


Opportunity Costs 101 – Seven Reasons Why HPPC Should Withdraw Its Parking Plaza Proposal

Opportunity Costs 101

Seven Reasons Why HPPC Should Withdraw Its Parking Plaza Proposal

If a recent trip to Gore Park has led you past large red yard signs brandishing the phrase NO HPPC PARKING LOT, than you are likely aware of the hotly contested parking lot proposal of Highland Park Presbyterian Church. And if you have gone a step further and have followed the comments on the anti-parking lot blog or the blog of Park Cities People, then you know that both the church and its neighbors are heavily vested in the outcome of this issue. HPPC clearly favors the parking lot, believing that it will alleviate its perceived parking problem and enable the church to fulfill its commitments to what the church website calls its Forward by Faith capital campaign. Church neighbors, on the other hand, adamantly oppose the plan (as the abundance of signs makes clear), fearing that the lot will be an eyesore to the community and a catalyst for lower property values.

With such vested interests on both sides, it is easy for passions to heat up, as any quick glance at the blog commentary makes clear. While these strong emotions are understandable, they can nonetheless cloud better judgment. Without a direct interest in the outcome, I would like to offer the perspective of a Park Cities neighbor and perhaps speak as a “voice of reason.” When the situation is properly weighed, I believe that seven strong reasons emerge for why HPPC should withdraw its “parking plaza” proposal.

The Construction of the Proposed “Parking Plaza:”

Solves a Parking Problem That Does Not Exist
Poorly Stewards Church Resources
Alienates Church Neighbors
Amounts to Marginal Gains in Convenience/Parking Space
Misrepresents the Actual Appearance of the Parking Structure
Creates a Safety Concern in Itself
Breeds the Very Self-Indulgent Ethos the Church Exists to Confront

I will elaborate upon each of these points below:

1. Solves a Parking Problem That Does Not Exist

Drive by HPPC at 9:30, 11:00, or 12:15 on Sunday morning. If you are willing to walk a hundred yards (a shorter distance than I walk from the HPHS parking garage to an HP football game), than you can easily find a place to park. HPPC is situated near an abundance of lowly trafficked side streets that provide plenty of places to park your car. Spots near the church are reserved for the elderly and handicapped members of the congregation, and able-bodied attendees don’t have to look hard to find a place to leave their vehicle. Quite frankly, it is far from apparent that a parking problem even exists!

2. Poorly Stewards Church Resources

Living in a wealthy community where most home values rise well above a million dollars, it becomes common-place to not even bat an eye at construction sums in excess of 2 million dollars. But lest we lose sight of the fact that over half the world lives on less than 2 American dollars a day, let’s consider other outcomes the church could engender through these resources. Lack of clean water kills more people in the world than any other cause. What if the church invested the money by helping to build wells for the thirsty and sick? Haiti continues to struggle to meet the basic needs of its people. Can you imagine what 2 million dollars could do there? It costs $500 a year to provide food and clean water, medical care, and education for a child through Compassion International. What if HPPC chose to instead bless the lives of FOUR THOUSAND children in the name of Christ? An abundance of other investment options include supporting the needs of world missionaries, helping to plant other churches, and funding revitalization projects in West Dallas. There are innumerable more financially responsible ways that HPPC could spend their money.

3. Alienates Church Neighbors

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” The church should engender reconciliation, not breed dissent. Going through with this parking lot proposal would create a rift between HPPC and its surrounding neighbors. If a church is not seeking to bless and witness to its immediate neighbors, how can it properly fulfill Christ’s commands to “love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:39) and “be the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14)?

Furthermore, the neighbors have good reason to be concerned over the proposed construction! The proposed lot will without a doubt significantly lower property values in the immediate vicinity of the church. If a house is mortgaged, this could amount to a substantial loss of home equity.

4. Amounts to Marginal Gains in Convenience/Parking Space

Convenience – The church website explains that the proposed parking plaza will create an additional 145 parking spaces “allowing our seniors, mobility impaired members, and other members and visitors a beautiful and convenient place to park.” But how convenient is the proposed lot that extends from Shannon to Westwick? Would a mobility-impaired member actually find it easier to walk to church from this location rather than from the handicapped designated spaces on Shannon and McFarlin? Besides, for those entering the church at the main sanctuary on University or at the newly designed children’s department entrance on the east side of the church, parking in the newly proposed lot would actually create a longer walk than parking on Hunter’s Glen or McFarlin on the west side of Golf!

Parking Space – Furthermore, how much parking space will the lot really add? The net gain for the church is actually 125 spaces, when the 20 lost spaces on Shannon are factored in. As any high school senior can attest, the first lesson of economics is opportunity cost. Sure there is a gain, but at what cost! God calls the church not only to count the cost in eternal concerns such as whether to follow Jesus but in temporal matters as well. HPPC, before moving forward with this proposal you should carefully count the cost!

5. Misrepresents the Actual Appearance of the Parking Structure

The recently released plans for the “parking plaza” are admittedly more aesthetically pleasing than most interested parties anticipated. Nevertheless, the plan is something of a misrepresentation. What the plan does not show is the construction time it will take to carry out such an elaborate proposal. What the plan does not show are the noise, trash, animal movement, and unsightly appearance of the construction project. What the plan does not show are the years it will take before the landscaping and trees surrounding the lot reach the maturity reflected on the blueprint. What the plan does not show is whether or not the church will maintain and keep up the lot with the fastidious care the plan would lead one to expect. The dilapidated appearance of the HPPC owned homes on the McFarlin and University blocks would suggest otherwise…

6. Creates a Safety Concern in Itself

Many advocates of the parking plaza proposal have voiced concern over the safety hazards involved in walking small children across busy streets such as University or McFarlin. Without contesting the actual busy-ness of these streets during the hours of Church programming, I would like to call attention to the fact that the proposed parking lot is a far greater safety concern in itself! Has it occurred to anyone that a large, dimly lit, walled in, unlocked parking lot might not be the safest addition to the community? That it might be a place that could harbor unruly high school activity at best and predatory criminals at worst? If UP police tell residents to be cautious when going into their alleys at night, what would they say about this parking plaza?

7. Breeds the Very Self-Indulgent Ethos the Church Exists to Confront

I am a resident of University Park, a place of great privilege and wealth. I know how easy it is to idolize money and to use it only for my personal pleasure and benefit. I am an American. I know how easy it is to be a consumer, making my personal tastes and preferences tantamount to all. I am an inhabitant of the 21st century. I know the delights of easy accessibility and how effortless it is to elevate my personal comfort and convenience to a level that eliminates the need for work ethic and resolve. Yet I am also a Christian. And I know that God calls me to love him more than myself, to see my money as ultimately his and not mine, to put the interests of others ahead of my own, and to be willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience out of obedience to Him. I would therefore hope that my brothers and sisters at HPPC would see the folly behind the construction of this parking plaza. This is about more than building a community eye-sore. This is about a church endorsing the very monetary idolatry, self-indulgence, and consumeristic Christianity that it is called to be a prophetic voice against. I affirm with the bloggers of NoHPPCParkingLot, that if the destination is important, the distance is irrelevant.